In wake of Lake Gaston’s ascension to catfishing fame, it’s important to remember that the 20,500-acre lake along the Virginia border north of Raleigh is still one of the finest bass lakes available during May, according to guide Joel Richardson of Kernersville.
Fed by cold water from the bottom of flood-prone Kerr Lake and featuring a wealth of shallow, aquatic grasses and wooden cover, Gaston is subject to hold spawning fish and shallow, pos-tspawn bass throughout the month.
“The first part of May, a big bunch of them will be on the bed spawning,” said Richardson (336-803-2195). “I use a lot of soft plastics near shallow cover in 3 feet of water or less. Boat docks, grass beds and stumps are some of their favorite cover to spawn around. Most of the time, I fish the creeks off the midsection of the lake, from Poplar Creek to Pea Hill Creek.”
Noting that bedding bass are either preoccupied females or males resigned to guarding eggs, Richardson slows his approach to a snail’s pace.
“It’s real slow fishing; it has to be very deliberate,” he said. “I really prefer a lizard this time of year — a 6-inch, watermelon or green pumpkin, even black with blue flake. I Texas-rig it weightless on a 3/0 EWG hook.”
Nearing mid-May, Richardson said bass will be roughly split between spawners on the beds and those finished with their business and are residing nearby in similar covers of slightly deeper water.
“By this time, I start trying to target post-spawn fish, going to a black and blue jig,” he said. “It’s good to catch the bigger fish after they come off the beds. You can still catch fish on the beds, but the bigger fish get done first and head to the shade of the deeper docks and grass beds.”
By the end of May, Richardson feels like 75 percent of Gaston’s bass have come off the beds.
“The last of May, I don’t even mess with bedding fish,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of fish still there, but to me, that’s topwater time. A floating worm, Zoom Fluke or a buzzbait around the cover is deadly.
“You can still catch fish flipping docks, but there will also be a lot of fish starting to get grouped up on main-lake points and flats,” Richardson said. “I’ll use a Rat-L-Trap, Carolina rig or a jig to target rock piles and shallow ledges in the 5 to 10 foot range.”